The Yankees get their excuse to stop paying A-Rod, maybe

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Alex Rodriguez. (YES Network)
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A new report linking Alex Rodriguez and performance enhancing drugs in the Miami New Times means, according to various observers, that he'll never play again or  that he will. It also makes him  the greatest villain the sport of baseball has ever known, and gives him the option of manufacturing his own happy ending by committing insurance fraud.

Here's what we do know: one newspaper report has linked Alex Rodriguez to a list of clients for a now-defunct company whose purpose was to provide athletes and others who could pay with a number of substances banned by Major League Baseball.

What hasn't changed is the desire of the New York Yankees to get out of paying Alex Rodriguez the $114 million owed to him over the next five years to play baseball. That desire would exist if Rodriguez had never taken a single dose of steroids or anything else.

Rodriguez signed a ten-year, $275 million contract after the 2007 season that looked excessive at the time (no one else was bidding anything like that salary or those years) and looks much worse now. But such contracts are supposed to look worse now; the whole idea behind massive long-term deals isn't to find a player who will be providing peak-level value in his late-30s or early-40s.

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The hope is that the player will be worth more than he is paid at the start of the contract, making up for what the team is paying at the back end. It is like a surtax teams need to pay to acquire the elite players. It doesn't always work, but it can—Carlos Beltran with the Mets was a good example of such a deal.

The difference between Beltran and Rodriguez, however, is that Beltran signed at 27, Rodriguez at 32. The Yankees weren't betting on Rodriguez's peak to balance his decline. They were betting on his decline to mitigate his further decline.

It didn't really work. Fangraphs has Rodriguez's first five years of the new contract as worth $91.9 million. The Yankees paid out $161 million for that production.

However, now 37, coming off of hip surgery that will keep him out for much of the 2013 season, Rodriguez's next five years aren't likely to be worth close to that $91.9 million. 

So if the Yankees can get out of paying that money, they will. It's not because he's a mean man or a selfish teammate or any of the other things countless anonymous sources in almost as many columns say he is. It's because it made great baseball sense to get rid of Rodriguez before this Miami New Times story, and it still does after.

Questions include whether the Yankees can actually find a way to void his contract, or Rodriguez can be shamed into accepting a buyout, or a doctor can be found to legitimately claim Rodriguez cannot recover just weeks after the doctor who performed the procedure loudly trumpeted that Rodriguez could play at better than pre-surgery levels.

But it would be in keeping with the luck of the New York Yankees to sign one of the most ill-advised contracts in baseball history, only to happen upon a way out just as it threatened to wreck their fortunes.

It's like the Jeffrey Maier play, but executed by joyless grown-ups in suits who know exactly what they're doing.

Elsewhere in New York sports:

METS

The Mets added effective but often-injured Scott Atchison to their bullpen.

Better days ahead, though, maybe: the Mets have three of Major League Baseball's top 29 prospects.

NETS

While the Nets prepare to take on the Miami Heat Wednesday, Mikhail Prokhorov is in town to evaluate P.J. Carlesimo.